Friday, December 9, 2011


London, UK (The Guardian) - Almost a quarter of British women are obese, and nearly as many men, according to the European health interview survey published by the EU’s statistical office Eurostat. Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver continues his campaign to improve school food, asking the prime minister to ensure that academies don’t undermine it, and again focusing on “rocketing obesity rates in the UK”.  But we’re getting the focus wrong. Obesity isn’t what’s robbing us of good health and life. Using data from the Cooper Centre Longitudinal Study exercise scientist Steven Blair and his colleagues have established that you can be fat and fit. It is better to be overweight and active than normal weight and sedentary in terms of risk of mortality, the research has shown.  Instead of paying attention to our sedentary lifestyles, we keep on focusing on fatness, Blair says.  As individuals, we just can’t resist stepping on the scales and it’s a staple of weight-loss programmes.

Physical activity is almost always a secondary consideration, and then only because of its power to help us lose weight. This narrow focus is repeated in campaigns and the media, but the obsession with how much people weigh and how much they need to lose just isn’t helping us lead longer and healthier lives, or reducing the burden on the health service.  Making up our half an hour of not being sedentary does take an effort, but at least it can be achieved in manageable 10-minute blocks, can be made part of life without having to find fresh hours in the day - and above all has the merit of being in our control. A pill that promised the same effect as just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day would make headlines around the world: yet the benefits are available now for those who change their routines, and it’s free to do it.

Studies have shown that you can be fat and fit. So why are we obsessing about what we eat rather than how much we move? Anti-obesity campaigns should focus on the benefits of exercise.  Physical inactivity is the biggest health problem of the 21st century.  It isn’t about getting everyone running marathons, or setting aside the time and money they don’t have to go to the gym.  Instead, we need to put back physical activities that modern life has removed into our daily routines. One option is Hatha Yoga, which can also be practiced to fight stress, improve health and increase welfare.
Hatha-yoga is one of the first types of yoga with which people become acquainted. However, it is not a separate system of yoga as many people seem to think. It is one of the eight steps of Raja-yoga. Nonetheless, it can be used separately if only for helping keep the body and mind fit and in shape.  Hatha-yoga is described in such early texts as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita. Lord Shiva is said to be the originator of the system found in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This is highly regarded by the Nath tradition founded by Gorakshnath and his teacher Matyendranath, who was accepted to be a disciple of Lord Shiva.  Although it is a part of a spiritual process, when taken as an isolated exercise technique it can be completely secular as well. Thus, it is practically non-denominational and non-sectarian. Anyone from any background can use it and acquire its benefits.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“Yoga and How to Get Started” - “Hatha-Yoga”

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